So, I forgot again and tonight I did some shopping at Gamersgate only to be reminded why I stopped shopping there. You can find out exactly how messy it is within the starred segment, skip past that for the big point if you’re not interested in just how silly the experience was.
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Part The First
Right, so yeah, I made a few purchases at Gamersgate tonight and as is usual, I thought I’ll just go and grab the installers for my stash so they’re there when I need them.
So off I trot to my little library on Gamersgate and begin to download stuff. Naturally enough, I start this by clicking the download button.
…and it looks like they’re downloading something else instead of the game here. Either that or it’s a remarkable feat of coding and packing we’re looking at here.
It’s a downloader! Brilliant. Rather than the download button downloading the game as you’d expect, it downloads a downloader to download the game. Obviously.
And then as soon as it’s finished downloading, it goes straight into the installation procedure, no questions asked. I don’t want to install the game, I want to download the installer for later, so I cancel the installation process and go back to the downloader which now presents me with a few options.
I choose to keep the temporary files assuming they’ll keep the installer safe and sound for later and I can just zip it out the folder.
So off I go to grab the installer.
And it’s not there. Instead there’s a file called “launcher” which is pretty much the same size as the installer that’s just been downloaded but I can’t run it. I change it to .exe and I still can’t run it. Not good.
One rinse and repeat of the process and it turns out that yes, this is the installer, briefly revealed during the point where the downloader tries to install the thing and at this point and -only- at this point can I rescue the installer from the temporary files. Before this it is a “launch” file, after it is a “launch” file.”
How is this OK? How do you come up with this when all you have to do, the only thing you need to do as a store is to let me download the game and install it when I choose? We’re not talking the ephemeral Steam library client scenario here, I shop outside of Steam precisely because I want the installers, the .exe files, the .jar, the .whatever and to stash it in my games collection. How hard is it really to just let me have that?
All any store has to do is provide a big button labelled DOWNLOAD that lets me DOWNLOAD THE GAME.
Why Gamersgate can’t just do that, I have no idea. What I do know is that their current system is INCREDIBLY SHIT.
I have 30 odd games here to download and stash in my Gamersgate account and I’m going to have to rinse and repeat this process for each and every one just to rescue the installer for the game I bought. I’m going to have to download a downloader, start installing the game, copy the installer out of a temporary files directory and place it elsewhere whilst the installation prompt is on screen otherwise I cannot salvage the installer despite asking the downloader nicely to keep the files there for me. And then and only then will I have the installer for the game I’ve just purchased somewhere safe. This is ridiculous and absurd.
And people wonder why Steam owns most of the PC games market?
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Part The Second
Once again I’m reminded of why I tend to mainly split my purchases between direct sales from the developers and Steam. Let’s talk about that for a minute. As a person that buys lots of games and as a person who makes games, obviously, I don’t want shit stores, right? Yeah, let’s talk about this.
It seems a lot of stores are intent on putting roadblocks in place. Sometimes it’s a redundant client, sometimes it’s utter stupidity like what I’ve recounted here but always stuff that makes everything just that little bit harder, that little bit more frustrating than it should be. Stuff that makes the shop a less desirable place to revisit. They don’t seem to consider what my experience will be, just what they want my experience to be.
Because of this lack of consideration for me, I make a choice. I choose not to shop in these places again. Mostly. I opt to only visit the stores when there’s a Steam code going for cheap or the games are so ridiculously cheap that I don’t care if it goes tits up somewhere down the line or the ten minutes I have to spend biting my lip at the ridiculous roadblocking is outweighed by the fact I’ve only spent 10p on a game or whatever.
I don’t buy from Origin because I already have a Steam, I don’t buy from Green Man Gaming with the exception of when there’s incredibly cheap Steam codes because I don’t want their client, I don’t buy from Indie City because I don’t need an indie Steam, I don’t buy from Gamersgate because they can’t just give me the stuff I want to download, I don’t buy from ShopTo because they wanted credit card details before letting me pay with Paypal, I rarely shop at GetGamesGo because I never know if the deal is actually going to let me pay with Paypal or not until I’ve gone through the rigmarole of the entire shopping cart experience (having had this happen on multiple occasions I’m now trained into assuming they won’t so no sale), I don’t shop at Beamdog because… look, you get the picture.
There’s always this friction there in all these stores. I don’t need another Steam, I don’t need another download client ever actually, thanks. I certainly don’t need to go most of the way through the cart process only to find out at the end I can’t use my preferred method of payment despite clicking a button to pay with that method of payment or whatever. And I definitely don’t need a pet to follow me round the store.
Outside of Steam, GOG and direct, the only other (none bundle affiliated) store* that’s as friction free as possible is Indievania. It has an admittedly small selection and due to the way it sends money direct to the devs it can be a bit of a pain in the backside making bulk purchases there but there’s a refreshing honesty and a refreshing lack of bullshit to it. Purchases take seconds, information is clear, I click download and I download the games precisely as you’d expect to.
Yuss, it’s a bit grey but I like Indievania. It’s as close to buying direct as you can get and whilst I realise that it’s not going to turn the numbers for most devs, I’m happy to buy there even if most won’t. Most people aren’t interested in the odds and ends of indie as much as I am. That’s fair enough, it’s valuable to me in the same way XBLIG is valuable – there’s curios there and I don’t want or need every store to be the one big store, I want stores that cater to different needs and Indievania does just that.
I wish I could say similar nice things about Gamersgate and the others I listed earlier. No, genuinely, I wish I could. I also wish that there were more stores I could sit there, right now, and say “I can always shop here instead for a crap free experience” but I can’t. Despite having more options than ever, more stores than ever, I feel less and less inclined to buy from the majority of places simply because they don’t offer me a good experience. Or in some cases, don’t offer a good experience anymore.
It wasn’t that long ago that Direct2Drive and Gamersgate were faff free, since being sold to Gamefly D2D is now running close to winning the “least attractive store ever” award (the one previously held by Timmy Langdell’s makeshift Edge store) and I really don’t know what Gamersgate’s excuse is. Maybe someone genuinely believes that their downloader is useful to me in some way? I dunno!
Part The Third
I know I’m a fussy and intolerant person at the best of times when it comes to things wasting my time but this is digital distribution, buying things should be seamless and straightforward and I know perfectly well they can be. If Indievania can do it, if Steam can make shopping painless, I’m told GOG do also, if pretty much every bundle can do it and if the Humble guys can get an entire store system out of doing it, it’s obviously not an impossibility, right?
I buy more through Steam because it’s a no messing around solution. I buy loads through the app store because it’s a no messing around solution. I can have a Humble Bundle (or Humble Store purchase) sitting there and ready to download in next to no time whatsoever because it’s a no messing around solution. I’m more inclined to shop in places that have no messing around solutions because I don’t want to mess around. I want to be in, buy my stuff, download it then out, close the window, onto the next thing I want to do.
So let’s do this people, let’s demand better stores. As customers let’s demand better places to buy from rather than just shrugging our shoulders and writing these things off as “things that wot are done” and as developers, wouldn’t it be nice if the stores who want us to list our products there and want us to sell through them don’t make buying games more awkward and messy than it needs to be? Maybe that’d go some way to seeing better numbers from most of them if they weren’t so intent on arbitrary inconveniences. Maybe they’d be worthwhile alternatives to Steam instead then, eh?
Let’s stop having places where downloading purchases is a rotten pain in the arse, for everyone’s sake. Please.
*I don’t count Show Me The Games as that’s less a store and more a united promotional front.